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CRAFTING WITH CHRIS

My friend Chris and I love to craft. We also like to drink the occasional glass of wine, talk about cooking, and just have a good laugh. We got together for a crafting, wine drinking, sushi eating, good old time!

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She called prior to our get together. “Hey do you want to make a wreath?”  I of course said sure.  She sent me a pic of what she had in mind. So, off to AC Moore I went in search of a wreath form and my ribbon. So many choices to make. Although we had the same picture and instruction, they could not have turned our more differently. Both lovely and pretty enough to hang. I think we did quite well!

This is the wreath Chris made…..

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This is the one I made…..

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Same project and concept, two different wreaths. There really is no right or wrong way. It depends on your taste and what you want yours to look like.

Mine consists of a wire wreath form and 10 different spools of ribbon. I will warn you, ribbon can be pretty expensive. Look for sales and coupons in your local craft stores. Some stores have bins of ribbon marked down from previous seasons. I used wired ribbon. You could also use deco mesh, also found in craft stores, or on-line.

This is the wreath form I used.

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I cut my ribbon into 8 inch lengths.  I strongly encourage you to use a rotary cutter and cutting mat. It makes this part of the project go much faster.

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Using the second row from the center I tied the ribbon, alternately, all around until it was the desired fullness. Then using only the sheer ribbon on the very outer ring I alternately tied those colors in. When it is the desired fullness, fluff it out and hang it. Pretty easy!!!

So my Valentine’s wreath is done. You could use this technique literally for any holiday. Maybe you would like to do one for St. Patricks day or Easter. This would also make a nice gift. You could color coordinate for a special room or a specific season. The possibilities are limitless.

I hope you have a wonderful Valentines day. If you decide to make one send me a picture. I would love to see your creation.

Til next time,

Ciao xoxo

 

 

 

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PASTA E FAGIOLI, PUMPKIN DUMP CAKE AND SUPER BOWL

Barely home from Aruba; one of the best vacations we have had in years. Even though I ended up in convenient care on the Island…….ear infection, uggghhhh. Super Bowl Sunday is here!

Truthfully I was more interested in the commercials until the game got interesting. I don’t personally have anything against Brady. I just thought it would be nice to see someone else win. And win they did! In what was a white knuckle finish, Philadelphia reigns victorious. First super bowl win, ever, too! Congratulations, job well done.

We usually host a large party. Unfortunately just arriving home Saturday curtailed our number of guests. It was still fun and the food was amazing. Everybody brought a dish to pass. I love eating like that. It’s fun to share and taste and it doesn’t put all the burden on one person.

Our menu consisted of Skinny Taste Pasta E Fagioli. Hearty, excellent taste and healthy. We are definitely soup lovers in this household and this one hit a home run. I will definitely be making this one again. Thanks so much Robyne!

(Picture taken from Gina Homolka Skinnytaste Fast and Slow Cookbook)

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https://www.skinnytaste.com/pasta-fagioli-64-pts/

Buffalo dip and Sloppy Joes were part of our buffet. We also had a nice field green salad with strawberries, pignoli nuts, grilled chicken, goat cheese, and a lovely balsamic honey dressing. I am working on getting the recipe from my daughter for that one. As soon as I do I will post it for you.

I made a Pumpkin Dump Cake. It is so easy and serves a lot of people. It is also one that everybody seems to like. Add some whipped cream and you’re in heaven.

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I found this recipe on Pinterest. I had tasted this before at a friend’s house for a luncheon get together. I fell in love with it and so did everyone there. I knew it was a keeper and one that I would use over and over.

Here’s the recipe. I think you will agree with me and keep it in your rotation of desserts too.

PUMPKIN DUMP CAKE

INGREDIENTS:

  • 29 oz can 100% pure pumpkin
  • 1 C sugar
  • 1 can 12 oz 2% evaporated milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 3/4 C melted butter
  • 1 box yellow cake mix
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 C chopped pecans (I used walnuts and it was very tasty)

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Combine pumpkin, sugar, evaporated milk, eggs, pumpkin pie spice and salt.
  2. Beat well and pour into a greased 9×13 cake pan.
  3. Sprinkle cake mix over top, followed by chopped nuts of choice.
  4. Pour melted butter over the top.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes.

These two recipes could become your new favorites too. Check out the cookbook Skinnytaste Fast and Slow. It is excellent: one I use all the time.

Til next time,

Ciao xoxo

 

I’m Back…..Air Fried Bagels

I promised myself I was going to write at least twice a week. So far I haven’t been great about it but today prompted me to remember my committment to myself. I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season and a very happy New Year.

I don’t make resolutions because I feel like we should be the best we can be every day. Let’s face it, nobody is perfect! I am striving to be happier and healthier this year. I think that’s a great start.

So on that note…..I am following the new Weight Watchers Freestyle program along with the hubster. I have always loved Weight Watchers because I don’t have to buy special foods. I don’t have to cook something different for guests. I can still go out on occasion and I can still have a cocktail or dessert if I want to. While my daily points have decreased, the number of zero point foods has increased. It’s a learning curve, but we are getting there.

Recently posted was a WW recipe for air fried bagels. They can also be baked. I just happen to own a Cooks Essential air fryer and love it. Really, “everything topped” air fried bagels. I had to give it a whirl. It makes 4 nice sized bagels at 3 points.

So here’s the before air fried pic’s…..

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and here’s the after…..

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Can I just tell you………YUM. They really were excellent. I will make these over and over again. They were very simple to do. I will, in the future, make them into a thinner rope before shaping them into a bagel. Mine seemed to be a tad doughy. Taste wise, hands down, a great bagel. If you could only see the many possibilities rolling through my brain………..it’s exhausting.

So without further ado, I will post the recipe. Give it a try! Oven or air fried, it was well worth giving it a test run.

WEIGHT WATCHERS OVEN OR AIR FRIED BAGELS

3 FS POINTS PER SERVING

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 C all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder (make sure it’s not expired)
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 C non-fat Greek yogurt (do not use regular yogurt, it will be too sticky)
  • 1 beaten egg, or egg white
  • Toppings of choice (you can purchase “Everything Topping” from King Arthur Flour) or use sesame seeds, poppy seeds, garlic or onion flakes or make your own everything topping.

DIRECTIONS:

OVEN METHOD:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350F. Place parchment or silpat on a baking sheet. If using parchment spray with oil to avoid sticking.
  2. In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder and salt and whisk well. Add the yogurt and mix with a fork until well combined. It will look like small crumbles.
  3. Lightly dust flour on a work surface and remove dough from the bowl, knead the dough a few times until dough is tacky, but not sticky, about 20 turns. (It should not leave dough on your hand when you pull away).
  4. Divide dough into 4 equal balls. Roll each ball into a 3/4 inch thick rope and join the ends to form a bagel.
  5. Top with egg wash and sprinkle both sides with seasoning of your choice. Bake for 22 minutes in 350F oven then increase to 550F for 4 minutes. Let cool at least 10 minutes before cutting.

AIR FRYER METHOD:

  1. Pre-heat the air fryer  325F and set for 11-12 minutes.
  2. Repeat steps 2-4 as above for the oven method.
  3. Top with egg wash and sprinkle both sides with seasoning of your choice.
  4. Transfer in batches without overcrowding and bake 12 minutes, or until golden. No turning needed. You can check them at 10 minutes for color.
  5. Let cool for 10 minutes before cutting.

Til next time,

Ciao xoxo

Family Means Everything..

Since our cruise it has been a very hectic time in the Del Grosso household. We returned from a cruise to have Thanksgiving 3 days later. Thanksgiving brought all of our family together which was my in-laws greatest wish. Then on December 2nd we lost one of the greatest men I have ever known.

My father in law passed away on this Saturday in December. Sadly, it was also my sister-in-laws birthday. Our third childs birthday falls on the 3rd of December. This time of year is never easy to lose someone, then again, no time is an easy time.

As soon as we learned of the news we went to be with my mother in law. My sister-in-law immediately flew home from Michigan. Our 2nd child and her husband drove from Baltimore. The other children followed shortly from Michigan to Maryland, and this family was complete. We attempted to surround her and comfort her with all the love we have for both of them. Preparations had to be made!

My husband and his sister and mother had to bear the burden of making arrangements. Pops, as fondly known to our family, was well-loved by many and respected by all. As difficult as it was, people from vast geographic areas had to be given time to pay their respects to this giant of a man.

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I love this family and feel so privileged to be a part of it. All of our children could not have been more supportive and thoughtful. The grandchildren were equally impressive in their show of support and love for everyone. I looked around and my heart was so filled with love……..this is my family.

We take so many things for granted in this life. We always think there is going to be time. “I can do that tomorrow” or “I really don’t have time right now”. Truth is, tomorrow isn’t promised to anyone. Consider this encouragement! Make time for the ones you love. Take the time to make that phone call. Include your loved ones in your plans. Say I love you, hold hands, give hugs, share a kiss, and tell people how much you care. One day that won’t be a luxury you have any more.

I would like to tell you how wonderful Pops was to all of us and what he meant. Never an unkind word, always supportive and encouraging, wise in advice. The list goes on and on. Most of all there was unconditional love for all of his family. You knew it without it being said. It was like a big warm blanket that comforted all of us. There will never be another and he will be missed greatly every day.

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In closing I would like to thank all of the friends and family that supported us and continue to do so. All of the kindness and caring, and outpour of love made this difficult time a little easier for this family to bear.

Just remember, family is everything! Please hold your’s dearly and keep them close. Make sure they know how much they are loved and needed. Tomorrow will come but today is more important. Make it your mission to live for today.

Respectfully for my father in law “Pops”, til we meet again.

Til next time,

Ciao xoxo

NEAR PERFECT PIE CRUST

My black bean soup recipe, (BLACK BEAN SOUP) , went over extremely well. I acquired some new followers that I have never met, or know. What a fantastic feeling that is! I actually let out a little squeal every time that happens. It’s the best!

It’s popularity did reach someone I know. I like to call Josh our friend, our painter, and a fine musician. He recently became engaged to Anna, also a musician and a songbird. I quickly learned when he was here that he, she, and her son Ethan, love to eat. Both of them also like to cook.

After he saw the black bean soup recipe he said, “you should post a really good pie crust recipe. It’s getting to be that time of year for pot pies.” So, you can thank Josh for this one.

Pie crust, in my opinion, has to be light, flaky, and flavorful. Trust me when I tell you it isn’t hard to make. Believe me when I tell you, just like bread, (EGG BREAD or CHALLAH)   it may take some practice. Look at it this way. If you want to make your own, take the time to learn. If you don’t, Pillsbury makes a mighty fine crust. I don’t deny that I use it when faced with a time crunch.

So, put the butter in the freezer. (I’m not kidding.) Put about a half cup of water in the fridge with ice in it. Assemble the rest of the ingredients and prep your work surface. We are going to make pie crust!!!!!

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NEAR PERFECT PIE CRUST

(makes 2 pie crusts)

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 C of all-purpose flour, plus additional for rolling out (try “King Arthur” flour)
  • 1 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 sticks of unsalted butter, placed in the freezer
  • 1/2 C of water with ice placed in the fridge til ready to use

Directions:

  1. Grate the butter, using the large holes, onto a plate, and place back in the refrigerator.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and salt.
  3. With a whisk, mix all together until light and combined. Set aside
  4. Remove the butter and put into the flour mixture, using a fork until just combined. DO NOT OVER MIX.
  5. Starting with 2 Tbsp of the ice water, pour it over the dough and continue to gently combine until the dough holds together. Add more ice water a Tbsp at a time. You should be able to pinch a piece of dough and it will hold together.
  6. Divide the dough in half in the bowl.
  7. At this point pat into a disk. Either roll it out immediately or place each half in a zip lock bag, and place in the fridge for future use, no more than 2 days. If saving for much later, freeze it up to 2 months. Make sure to leave the dough out for a bit when you are ready to use it so it is pliable and doesn’t fight back.
  8. On a large floured surface, (I like to use a wooden board) sprinkle all-purpose flour over the area and place one half of the dough on top of it turning it over once to get flour on both sides.
  9. With a wooden rolling-pin that has been floured (use your hands and pick up some flour and rub over the rolling-pin) roll out into a circle, rolling away from you and turning a quarter turn each time until you reach the desired size. Add additional flour to keep the dough from sticking, but only as needed. *(DO NOT roll out for too long or too many times, it will cause your dough to be tough. The less handled the flakier it’s going to be).
  10. Now fill or use to top your pie, sweet or savory.

Once you get the hang of this you will wonder why you never did it before. Pillsbury ain’t got nothing on you!!!!

Til next time,

Ciao xoxo

CANNED TOMATO SALSA

 

Look out y'all….Vickie's got her canning equipment out! Shew, what an evening I had! However, I have some of the best salsa I have had in years. It's good enough to gift, if it makes it to Christmas. I'll let you know how that goes!!!

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So what do you do when life gives you tomatoes? I made salsa! Initially I was going to make sauce. Then I was doing my daily perusing through Pinterest and came across some salsa recipes. This one is a keeper; if you like salsa and have an abundant crop of tomatoes, definitely give it a try.

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Our tomatoes are absolutely beautiful this year. I can not take any of the credit for that. These are solely due to the love and affection my husband, Joe, has given them. They taste just like candy!

I love to can. I haven't done it in years, but when that canning door is opened, look out! I truly forget just how much I enjoy it. I will warn you, you may see a lot of canning posts in the next few weeks. Hopefully you will try canning yourself. It can be very addictive.

I loved this recipe because there was minimal prep time. No more blanching tomatoes and cutting an X in the bottom, no ice baths. This is pure genius! You just cut your tomatoes in half, place them face down on a baking sheet, and put them under the broiler. Once the skin is blistered you remove and cool them. Those tomato skins come right off as soon as you touch them. Trust me, this is a huge time saver. The other time saver is your beloved food processor. Throw the other vegetables in there, chop to consistency, and your off.

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So….on to the recipe. If you have any questions about any of the process or technique, send me a message and I will be happy to answer your question. If I don't have the answer we will find it together.

CANNED TOMATO SALSA

Makes 8-9 pints

Ingredients:

  • Roma tomatoes (I used 3 sheet pans, covered with non stick foil,) halved and packed as tightly as possible.
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 2 large green peppers, chopped
  • 5 jalapeno, seeded and membranes removed, finely chopped (leave in if you want more heat)
  • 7 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 t. ground cumin
  • 2 1/2 t. coarse ground pepper
  • 2 1/2 T pickling salt (or coarse kosher salt, NO IODINE)
  • 1/3 C Cilantro, fresh, chopped  (I only used about 1 T, we like it in small amounts)
  • 1/4 C sugar
  • 1 1/4 C apple cider vinegar
  • 15 oz tomato sauce
  • 12 oz tomato paste

Directions:

  1. Prepare your canner (according to instructions) so it's ready for you.
  2. Wash and clean your jars with soap and water, rinse thoroughly. Pour very hot water into them and keep them warm. (This will prevent them from cracking when you put the hot salsa in them.)
  3. Clean and wash your tomatoes. Cut them in half and place them cut side down on a tray lined with non-stick foil. Put them under the broiler and cook just until the skin blisters. Remove them and let them cool. Once cooled, remove the skin and the center hard core and membrane. Place them in a colander and mash the excess water out of them. (this is important if you don't want watery salsa). Repeat with the other two trays.
  4. Put the tomatoes in a large pot, cut them with kitchen shears to the consistency or size you want.
  5. Chop all of your vegetables in the food processor to the size you want. (Mine were all about the size of peas.) The Jalapeños and garlic were chopped very fine. Drain the water out of them in a colander, also mashed a bit with a wooden spoon to release most of the water. Add them to your pot of tomatoes.
  6. Add all of the other ingredients and stir well to combine.
  7. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring frequently.
  8. Using a canning funnel, ladle the mixture into your jars, leaving a 1/2 inch at the top. Wipe the rim, place a lid on top and seal with a lid ring.
  9. Using a jar lifter (available in the canning section of most stores) carefully place them into the canner, water or steam, and process for 20 minutes.
  10. Remove the jars carefully with your jar lifter and let cool to room temperature.
  11. Check all of your jars, the lid should be firm, you might even here it "Ping" as it seals itself when you let it sit to cool. (I love that sound!) If the lid moves up and down in the center it hasn't sealed correctly. Either refrigerate it or re-process it again.

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Good Luck and Happy Canning!

Til next time,

Ciao xoxo

 

 

LIGHT CHICKEN QUESADILLAS

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We eat a lot of chicken. In one of my earlier posts I blogged an easy way to cook chicken so you can have it throughout the week when your pressed for time. CROCK POT CHICKEN FOR THE WEEK. As per usual I made some chicken on Monday for the week. I happened to come across this recipe by Ellie Krieger and I am so glad to share it with you.

I did make a couple of changes to it. One was using reduced fat cheese and sour cream. The other was banana peppers. We had some from our garden that needed to be used. The result was yum and added just enough heat. I also found a tortilla that is a Weight Watchers smart point count of 1. I found mine in our local Wal-Mart. They taste fantastic!

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Having the chicken already cooked makes this come together very easily. One serving is 2 quarters of a tortilla. I must admit, it was so good I ate 3 quarters. My husband loved them so I will be making these again.

If you don’t like banana peppers, feel free to leave them out. I loved the bit of tang and heat they brought to the dish. You could use a bell pepper or leave it out all together.  I would suggest prepping all of your items first because this goes very quickly once you start cooking.

LIGHT CHICKEN QUESADILLAS

7 WW Smart Points / Serving (using WW calculator)

Ingredients:

  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped (about 2 C)
  • 1 C banana peppers, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 8 oz. of baby bella mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 C chopped, cooked, skinless, boneless, chicken breast
  • 1 t, heaping ground cumin
  • 1 t, heaping chili powder
  • 1/2 t dried oregano
  • 2 C baby spinach leaves, slice into ribbons
  • 1 t salt
  • 1/2 t ground black pepper
  • 4 (10 inch) tortillas (my recommendation is above)
  • 1 C 2% shredded Mexican cheese blend
  • 1/2 C salsa (zero sugar)
  • 1/4 C reduced-fat sour cream

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Directions:

  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  2. Add the onions, peppers (if using), and mushrooms. Cook until the mushroom water is evaporated and they begin to brown, about 7 minutes.
  3. Add the chopped garlic and cook for about 1 minute or until fragrant.
  4. Add the chicken, cumin, chili powder, and oregano and stir until all the spices are incorporated.
  5. Add the spinach, salt, and pepper and cook until the spinach is wilted, about 2 minutes.
  6. Place a large skillet over med heat and generously spray with cooking spray of choice.
  7. Place one tortilla in the pan and top with 1/4 C of shredded cheese.
  8. Spoon 1/2 heaping C of chicken and vegetable mixture on top.
  9. Spoon another 1/4 C of cheese on top of the chicken and top with another tortilla. Mash together slightly with your spatula.
  10. Cook for about 3-4 minutes or until browned and cheese is melted. Flip over and brown the other side.
  11. Remove and repeat with the other tortillas.
  12. Slice each quesadilla into quarters. Place 2 quarters on a plate with 1 T sour cream and 2 T salsa. Garnish with parsley if desired.

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Ole’…… Dinner is served!

Ya know, this would be really good with a Marguerita.

Til next time,

Ciao xoxo

 

 

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